Getting Port Moody residents to stop contaminating recycling bins is a ‘significant challenge,’ according to report

Despite efforts by the city, residents in Port Moody continue to occasionally mix in garbage with their recycling.

The city released its annual report on solid waste and recycling on June 11, which showed recycling contamination rates crept back up in 2023 after being significantly reduced in 2022.

“Efforts to eliminate contamination within the recycling stream continue to be a significant challenge,” the report stated.

Metro Vancouver’s 2011 regional framework has the stated goal of minimizing waste generation and maximizing collection of reusables, with the plan implementing several disposal bans including hazardous material, food, wood waste and recyclable materials.

Port Moody’s solid waste division is responsible for collecting waste and recycling from some 12,000 households in the community, which it collects in a single stream.

Staff have implemented a contamination remediation plan under Recycling BC in 2022, which proved successful, reducing contamination rates from 10.7 to 7.46 percent that year.

And while Port Moody reduced its overall waste production in 2023 by 185 tonnes – one of its lowest volumes to date – its recycling contamination rate increased by 0.3 percent.

Staff audited 1,442 recycling carts and found around 20 percent contained banned materials; 195 carts had some contaminated items, while 87 carts were described as containing “extreme contamination” and were not collected.

Port Moody’s in-house collection system brings in higher volumes which leads to higher diversion rates, but it also means the overall material is of lower quality. The city’s contact with RecycleBC means it has to hit certain targets or face penalties.

“While our city recycles more material on average, we also have a higher amount of unaccepted materials entering our recycling stream,” the report stated. “It remains critical that we continue our efforts to lower the contamination rates, avoid fines and maximize the collection of recyclable materials.”

Staff noted another remediation plan is in the works for 2024 to further reduce contamination rates.

A total of 191 citations in 2023 were handed out, a slight decline from the 208 in 2022. The city also received 35 calls for illegal dumping in 2023, nearly half the number from 2022.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch